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X2 (often promoted as X2: X-Men United or internationally as X-Men 2) is a 2003 superhero film based on the fictional characters the X-Men. Directed by Bryan Singer, it is the second film in the X-Men film series. It stars an ensemble cast including Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Alan Cumming, Famke Janssen, Anna Paquin, Shawn Ashmore, Aaron Stanford, Brian Cox, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, James Marsden, Halle Berry and Kelly Hu. The plot, inspired by the graphic novel God Loves, Man Kills, pits the X-Men and their enemies, the Brotherhood, against the genocidal Colonel William Stryker (Brian Cox). He leads an assault on Professor Xavier's school to build his own version of Xavier's mutant-tracking computer Cerebro, in order to destroy every mutant on Earth.
Development phase for X2 began shortly after X-Men. David Hayter and Zak Penn wrote separate scripts, combining what they felt to be the best elements of both scripts into one screenplay. Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris were eventually hired for rewrite work, changing characterizations of Beast, Angel and Lady Deathstrike. Sentinels and the Danger Room were set to appear before being deleted because of budget concerns. Filming began in June 2002 and ended that November. Most of the filming took place at Vancouver Film Studios, the largest production facility outside of Los Angeles in North America. Production designer Guy Hendrix Dyas adapted similar designs of John Myhre from the previous film. X2 was released in the United States on May 2, 2003 and became both a critical and financial success, earning eight nominations at the Saturn Awards and grossing approximately $407 million worldwide.
Nightcrawler, a teleporting mutant, attempts to assassinate the President of the United States in the White House, but he fails and escapes after being shot by a Secret Service agent. Wolverine heads to Alkali Lake but finds nothing left of the base. Logan returns to the school, reunited with Rogue, her boyfriend Iceman, Cyclops, Storm, and Jean Grey. He is requested by Professor Xavier to watch over the children at the school, while Storm and Jean find Nightcrawler with the help of the professor and Cerebro.
Cyclops and the Professor visit Magneto in his plastic prison to see if he had any part in the attack on the President. Reading Magneto's mind, the Professor discovers that a covert government operative, William Stryker, has been extracting information from Magneto. A trap is sprung and Cyclops and the Professor are captured by Stryker and his assistant Yuriko Oyama. A military raid of the X-Mansion begins, with the soldiers sedating every student they find. However, the plan backfires when Wolverine strikes back and kills a large number of Stryker's men, while Colossus, Rogue, Iceman, Pyro, and most of the students escape through a series of hidden tunnels in the school. Wolverine confronts Stryker, who fails to shed any light to his past. Iceman returns, saves Wolverine by creating a wall of ice between him and Stryker, and they both escape through one of the tunnels. Stryker's soldiers had already succeeded in sedating six students and managed to break inside Cerebro.
Impersonating Senator Robert Kelly and Yuriko, Mystique gains information about Magneto's prison and provides a means for him to escape. Wolverine, along with Rogue, Iceman and Pyro head to Iceman's (Bobby Drake's) parents' home in Boston. After a 9-1-1 call from Bobby's brother Ronny, the police arrive just as the group is about to leave. Pyro uses his fire manipulation powers to fend off the police, but gets carried away and is prevented from causing further damage by Rogue. The X-Jet arrives to pick them up, and they are quickly targeted by two Air Force fighter jets. They manage to force the pilots to eject with the help of Storm and Jean Grey; however, they are hit by a missile which threatens to crash them. Only due to the sudden interference of Magneto do they survive. The X-Men then team up with Magneto and Mystique. Magneto has learned Stryker orchestrated the attack on the President and has been experimenting on mutants, using a drug injected directly into the back of the neck to control them. Jean reads Nightcrawler's mind and determines that Stryker's base is located at Alkali Lake, inside the dam where he plans to kill the world's mutants by building a second Cerebro.
Through his son, Jason, Stryker gains control over the Professor. His son is able to project powerful visions in the mind, blinding a person to reality, and through this the Professor is brainwashed to use Cerebro to find and kill all mutants. Mystique is able to infiltrate Stryker's base by impersonating Wolverine as the X-Men followed. Storm and Nightcrawler search for the kidnapped students. Jean, Magneto, and Mystique are attacked by a brainwashed Cyclops while trying to rescue the Professor and in the process caused damage to the generators that keep the dam from collapsing. The force of Jean's telekinetic blast awakens Cyclops from his brainwashing, and Wolverine simultaneously finds Stryker in an adamantium smelting room along with Yuriko, who is revealed to be Lady Deathstrike. Wolverine manages to defeat Deathstrike and then finds Stryker on a landing pad, where Stryker attempts to bargain Wolverine for his life with stories of his past.
Storm and Nightcrawler find the children and break them out of their cell. Magneto and Mystique managed to kill the rest of Stryker's men by setting off their grenades, which causes a leak in the dam, and Magneto stops Jason and the Professor before the mutants are killed. While disguised as Stryker, Mystique uses Jason to convince the Professor to kill all humans; she and Magneto, along with their new initiate, Pyro, then use Stryker's helicopter to escape Alkali Lake, chaining Stryker to concrete rubble. Meanwhile, Nightcrawler teleports Storm inside of Cerebro where she creates a snowstorm to free the Professor from his telepathic illusion.
They all then flee the base as water engulfs it, only to discover that Magneto, Mystique, and Pyro - who had earlier been convinced by Magneto to join them - had escaped on the helicopter. Fortunately, Iceman and Rogue arrive with the X-Jet and everyone gets on board. The dam bursts completely, flooding the landscape and killing Stryker. A malfunction aboard the X-Jet prevents it from taking off; Jean sacrifices herself by leaving the jet and creating a telekinetic wall as a shield against the flood. She activates the X-Jet's primary engines before releasing the torrent of water down on herself, presumably killing her.
The X-Men are able to supply the President with files from Stryker's private offices, and the Professor warns him that humans and mutants must work together to build peace or they will destroy each other through war. The next scene returns to the school, with Professor Xavier, Cyclops, and Wolverine talking about Jean's past. They are then interrupted by Colossus and a large number of the students who are supposed to be in their next class. While they leave, Wolverine tells Cyclops that Jean made a choice and that it was him, which relieves Cyclops a good deal. The film ends with a voice-over by Jean Grey on the process of evolution (a speech originally made by the Professor in the introduction of the first film). The camera floats over Alkali Lake, showing a vague shape of a 'Phoenix' flying above it, hinting at her survival.
- Hugh Jackman as Logan /
A mutant who has no memory of his life before he was grafted with an indestructible adamantium skeleton. Wolverine is a gruff loner, he is also a father figure to Rogue and has a love connection with Jean. He wields three blades that come out of each of his fists, has keen animal-like senses, the ability to heal rapidly, and is a ruthless and aggressive fighter.
- Patrick Stewart
as Professor Charles
A powerful telepathic mutant who uses a wheelchair. He founded a School for "gifted youngsters"; Xavier is a pacifist who believes humans and mutants can live together in harmony. He uses the Cerebro device, built by Magneto and himself, to track and locate mutants across the world. Xavier is regarded as an expert on genetic mutation.
- Ian McKellen as Erik Lehnsherr /
Once Xavier's ally, Magneto now believes mutants are superior to humans. Magneto wields the ability to manipulate metal magnetically, as well as the power to create magnetic fields. He wears a helmet that renders him immune to Xavier's and all related telepathic powers. Imprisoned after his scheme in the first film, he is drugged by William Stryker for information on Cerebro, before making his escape and forming an alliance with the X-Men to stop Stryker. He has demonstrated sophisticated knowledge in matters of genetic manipulation and engineering. The character's helmet was slightly redesigned as McKellen found wearing it uncomfortable in the previous film.
- Halle Berry as Ororo Munroe /
A mutant and teacher at Xavier's School who can control the weather with her mind. Storm befriends Nightcrawler. Berry dropped out of Jennifer Lopez's role in Gigli to reprise the role.
- Famke Janssen as Dr. Jean Grey
A teacher at Xavier's school and the X-Mansion's doctor, Jean has begun to experience vast and at times uncontrollable growth in both her telepathy and telekinetic powers since Magneto's machine exploded and thus unlocked or mutated her abilities in the first film. She is Cyclops' fiancé.
- James Marsden as Scott Summers /
The field leader of the X-Men, and a teacher at Xavier's Institute, he shoots uncontrollable beams of concussive force from his eyes and wears a visor to control them. He is in a relationship with Jean. Cyclops is taken prisoner by Stryker.
- Anna Paquin as Marie / Rogue
A girl who can absorb any person's memories and abilities by touching them. As she cannot control this power, Rogue can easily kill anyone and thus is unable to be close to people. Her love interest is Bobby Drake/Iceman.
Romijn-Stamos as Mystique
Magneto's henchwoman, she is a shapeshifter. Mystique is blue, naked and covered in scales, and she acts as a spy. She injects a prison guard with metal, with which Magneto makes his escape, and also sexually tempts Wolverine. Romijn's makeup previously took nine hours to apply, however, the make-up department was able to bring it down to six hours for X2.
- Brian Cox as
A human military scientist who plans a worldwide genocide of mutants using Xavier and Cerebro. Stryker has experimented on mutants in the past, including Wolverine, and uses a serum to control them. Singer opted to cast Cox in the role as he was a fan of his performance as Hannibal Lecktor in Manhunter.
- Alan Cumming as Kurt Wagner /
A kindly German mutant with a strong Catholic faith, yet ironically he has the appearance of a blue demon. Nightcrawler was used by Stryker in an assassination attempt on the President of the United States and gives help to the X-Men. He is capable of teleporting himself (and others) instantly from one location to another. On his body are many scarification marks, one for every sin. Cumming had always been Singer's choice for the role, but Cumming could not accept the part due to scheduling conflicts. Ethan Embry had been reported to be in contention for the role, but the film labored in development long enough for Cumming to accept the part. Singer also felt comfortable in casting Cumming since he is fluent in the German language. The drawings of Adam Kubert were used as inspiration for Nightcrawler's makeup design, which took four hours to apply. For the scene where Nightcrawler has his shirt off, Cumming went through nine hours. To best pose as Nightcrawler, Cumming studied comic books and illustrations of the character.
- Aaron Stanford as
John Allerdyce /
A friend of Bobby and Rogue, Pyro has anti-social tendencies because is very angry at humans for how they treat the mutant community. He has the ability to control (although not create) fire. Magneto tells him that "You are a god amongst insects; never let anyone tell you different." The filmmakers cast Stanford in the role after they were impressed with his performance in Tadpole.
- Shawn Ashmore as Bobby Drake /
Rogue's boyfriend, he can freeze objects and create ice. His family is unaware that he is a mutant and simply believes he is at a boarding school. After returning home, Bobby reveals to them what he actually is, much to his brother's derision.
- Kelly Hu as Yuriko Oyama /
A mutant that has a healing ability like Wolverine's, and is controlled by Stryker. She wields long adamantium fingernails. Only her first name is mentioned in dialogue.
- Michael Reid McKay as Jason Stryker / Mutant
William Stryker's son. He was sent to Xavier's school in an attempt to "cure" his ability to create illusions. Returning home, Jason tortured his parents until his mother committed suicide. His father lobotomized him and uses a fluid from his brain to control mutants. Xavier's mind is too strong for the fluid, however, and Jason is instead used in order to manipulate him in Stryker's genocidal scheme.
Jubilee, Psylocke and Multiple Man were to have cameos for the scene when Stryker and his troops storm the X-Mansion. Beast, Gambit and Marrow were to have appearances during the Dark Cerebro sequence. Gambit's cameo was actually shot, but the footage was not used in the final cut. Beast's scene was to show Dr. Hank McCoy transforming into his notable blue fur while Marrow was to be seen lying on a ground in New York City. Hank McCoy appears on a television during the scene where Mystique drugs Magneto's prison guard. Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris, the film's writers, cameo in scenes of Wolverine's Weapon X flashbacks as surgeons. Shaquille O'Neal wanted a role in the film but was ignored by the filmmakers.
The financial and critical success of X-Men persuaded 20th Century Fox to commission a sequel instantly. Starting in November 2000, Bryan Singer researched various storylines (one of them being the Legacy Virus) of the X-Men comic book series, choosing God Loves, Man Kills as the premise. Singer wanted to study, "the human perspective, the kind of blind rage that feeds into warmongering and terrorism," citing a need for a "human villain". Bryan and producer Tom DeSanto envisioned X2: X-Men United as the film series' Empire Strikes Back, in that the characters are "all split apart, and then dissected, and revelations occur that are significant... the romance comes to fruition and a lot of things happen." Producer Avi Arad announced a planned November 2002 theatrical release date, while David Hayter and Zak Penn were hired to write separate scripts. Hayter and Penn combined what they felt to be the best elements of both scripts into one screenplay. Singer and Hayter worked on another script, finishing in October 2001.
Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris were hired to rewrite Hayter and Penn's script in February 2002, turning down the opportunity to write Urban Legends: Bloody Mary. Angel and Beast appeared in early drafts, but were deleted because there were too many characters. Dr. Hank McCoy, however, can be seen on a television interview in one scene. Beast's appearance was to resemble Jim Lee's 1991 artwork of the character in the series X-Men: Legacy. Angel was to have been a mutant experiment by William Stryker, transforming into Archangel. A reference to Dougherty's and Harris' efforts of Angel remains in the form of an X-ray on display in one of Stryker's labs. Tyler Mane was to reprise as Sabretooth before the character was deleted. In Hayter's script, the role eventually filled by Lady Deathstrike was Anne Reynolds, a character who appeared in God Loves, Man Kills as Stryker's personal assistant/assassin. Singer changed her to Deathstrike, citing a need for "another kick-ass mutant". There was to be more development on Cyclops and Professor X being brainwashed by Stryker. The scenes were shot, but Fox cut them out because of time length and story complications. Hayter was disappointed, feeling that James Marsden deserved more screentime.
Rewrites were commissioned once more, specifically to give Halle Berry more screentime. This was because of her recent popularity in Monster's Ball, earning her the Academy Award for Best Actress. A budget cut meant that the Sentinels and the Danger Room were dropped. Guy Hendrix Dyas and a production crew had already constructed the Danger Room set. In the words of Dyas, "The control room [of the danger room] was a large propeller that actually rotated around the room so that you can sit up [in that control room] and travel around the subject who is in the middle of the control room. The idea for the traveling is that if it's a mutant has some kind of mind control powers they can't connect."
Producer Lauren Shuler Donner had hoped to start filming in March 2002, but production did not begin until June 17, 2002 in Vancouver and ended by November. Over sixty-four sets were used in thirty-eight different locations. The film crew encountered problems when not enough snow was produced in Kananaskis, Alberta. An excessive amount of fake snow was then applied. The idea to have Jean Grey sacrifice herself at the end and to be resurrected in a third installment was highly secretive. Singer did not tell Famke Janssen until midway through filming. Cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel and two stunt drivers nearly died when filming the scene in which Pyro has a dispute with police officers.
John Ottman composed the score. Ottman established a new title theme, as well as themes specifically for Magneto, Jean Grey, Nightcrawler, Mystique and Pyro.
Design and effects
Singer and Sigel credited Road to Perdition as a visual influence. Though Sigel shot the first X-Men in the anamorphic format, he opted to shoot X2 in Super 35. Sigel felt the recent improvements in film stocks and optics increased the advantages of using spherical lenses, even if the blowup to anamorphic must be accomplished optically instead of digitally. Sigel noted, "If you think about it, every anamorphic lens is simply a spherical lens with an anamorphizer on it. They'll never be as good as the spherical lenses that they emulate." Cameras that were used during filming included two Panaflex Millenniums and a Millennium XL, as well as an Aaton 35mm. Singer also used zoom lenses more often than he did in his previous films, while Sigel used a Frazier lens specifically for dramatic moments.
The Blackbird was redesigned and increased in virtual size from 60 feet to 85 feet. John Myhre served as the production designer on the first film, but Singer hired Guy Hendrix Dyas for X2, which was his first film as a production designer. For scenes involving Stryker's Alkali Base, Vancouver Film Studios, the largest sound stage in North America, was reserved.
Visual effects supervisor Mike Fink was not satisfied with his work on the previous film, despite the fact it nearly received an Academy Award nomination. Up to 520 shots were created for X-Men, while X2 commissioned roughly 800. A new computer program was created by Rhythm and Hues for the dogfight tornado scene. Cinesite was in charge of scenes concerning Cerebro, enlisting a 20-man crew. The Alkali Lake Dam miniature was 25 ft (7.6 m) high and 28 ft (8.5 m) wide. Cinesite created 300 visual effects shots, focusing on character animation, while Rhythm and Hues created over 100.
Comic book references
One scene depicts Mystique going through files on William Stryker's computer. Bryan Singer purposely included various names of characters and hints of storylines from X-Men lore on several computer screens. Singer "finds great difficulty in adapting all this stuff into a two and a half hour long movie".
Among the files are dossiers on Gambit, Pyro, Cannonball, Husk, Silver Samurai, Garrison Kane, Magneto, Artie Maddicks, Magma, Multiple Man, Karma, Skids, Dazzler, Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, Proteus, Danielle Moonstar, Storm, Beast, Feral, Fenris, Banshee, Black Tom Cassidy, Lila Cheney, Sabretooth, Sunspot, Polaris, Psylocke, Iceman, Blob, Skin and Wild Child. There are also files seen on another screen, including Omega Red, Project Wideawake, Muir Island, Franklin Richards and Cerebro.
Closer inspection reveals that Stryker is also keeping files on Sabra, Dr. Cecilia Reyes, Synch, Penance, M-Twins, Nightcrawler, Mystique, Lady Deathstrike, Copycat, Deadpool, Cyclops, Fenris, Cypher, Jamie Braddock, Magik, David North, Sunfire, Tabitha Smith, Mimic, Dr. Nathaniel Essex, Toad, Wolfsbane, Strong Guy, Siryn, Kitty Pryde, Sauron and Forge. There are also files on Alpha, Beta and Gamma Flights, Weapon X, Department H, Brotherhood, Operation: Zero Tolerance, Trask, Graymalkin, the Legacy Virus, Morlocks, Danger Room, the Blackbird, Xavier's School, Massachusetts Academy and the Salem Center.
The first cut of X2 was rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America, due to more violent scenes concerning Wolverine when Stryker's army stormed the X-Mansion. A few seconds were cut to secure a PG-13 rating.
X2 opened in America on May 2, 2003, accumulating $85,558,731 in its opening weekend in 3,749 theaters. The film grossed $214,949,694 in North America, while earning $192,761,855 worldwide, coming at a total of $407,711,549. X2 was a financial success since it recouped its production budget three times. X2 debuted simultaneously in ninety-three countries, the largest North American and international opening ever at the time. In addition, the film is the sixth highest grossing film based on a Marvel Comic book, and was the sixth highest of 2003, also earning $107 million in its first five days of DVD release.
X2 had a video game tie-in on X2: Wolverine's Revenge, which is unrelated to the events of the film, although Patrick Stewart voiced Professor X. X-Men: The Official Game bridges the storyline between X2 and X-Men: The Last Stand. Specifically, it explains Nightcrawler's absence from The Last Stand. Chris Claremont wrote a novelization of the film, which left out its secretive cliffhanger.
The film received very positive reviews. Based on 222 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes, X2 received a "Certified Fresh" 88% overall approval rating; the film was more balanced with Rotten Tomatoes' 40 "Top Critics", receiving an 83% approval rating. By comparison, Metacritic calculated an average score of 68/100 from 38 reviews.
Roger Ebert wrote "the storyline did not live up to its potential" and was critical of plot holes. He was impressed, however, by how Singer was able to handle so many characters in one film. In addition, Ebert wrote that the film's closing was perfect for a future installment, giving X2 three out of four stars. Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times wrote that it was rare for a sequel to be better than its predecessor. Turan observed that the film carried emotional themes that are present in the world today and commented that "the acting was better than usual [for a superhero film]". Peter Travers of Rolling Stone wrote that Hugh Jackman heavily improved his performance, concluding "X2 is a summer firecracker. It's also a tribute to outcasts, teens, gays, minorities, even Dixie Chicks."
Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle was critical of the storyline, special effects and action scenes. Joe Morgenstern of The Wall Street Journal specifically referred to the film as "fast-paced, slow-witted". Stephen Hunter of The Washington Post wrote "Of the many comic book superhero movies, this is by far the lamest, the loudest, the longest". Richard Corliss of Time argued that Singer depended too much on seriousness and that he did not have enough sensibilities to communicate to an audience. Empire called X2 the best comic book movie of all time in 2006, while Wizard named the film's ending as the twenty-second greatest cliffhanger of all time. In May 2007, Rotten Tomatoes listed X2 as the fifth greatest comic book film of all time.
X2 won the Saturn Award for Best Science Fiction Film. In addition, Bryan Singer (Direction), Dan Harris and Michael Dougherty (Writing), and John Ottman (Music) all received nominations. It also received nominations with its costumes, makeup, special effects and DVD release, coming to a total of eight nominations. The Political Film Society honored X2 in categories of Human Rights and Peace, while the film was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form).
Extracts Taken From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/X2_(film)
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